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Leading Scottish architect slams PFI over hospitals crisis

Fraser hlm edinburgh royal sick

Architect Malcolm Fraser has urged the country’s government to overhaul the way it delivers public buildings

The co-founder of Fraser/Livingstone Architects hsa written to finance secretary Derek Mackay calling for a greater role for industry professionals and a move away from private finance in the procurement of schools and hospitals.

His letter follows last week’s announcement by the Scottish government of a public inquiry into issues at the new Royal Hospital for Children and Young People in Edinburgh and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

A trade union chief last month claimed that the much delayed £150 million HLM Architects hospital in Edinburgh might have to be demolished over drainage concerns.

And earlier this year an urgent inquiry was ordered into the design of the IBI-designed hospital in Glasgow after it emerged an infection, potentially linked to ingress of pigeon droppings, was a factor in a child’s death.

Fraser, a former built environment advisor to the government, called for the inquiry to be handed ‘a bold remit’.

Everyone in construction knows these private processes produce shoddy buildings and are ruinously expensive

He slammed the ‘privatisation orthodoxy’ behind public building projects.

‘Everyone in the construction industry knows these private processes produce shoddy buildings and are ruinously expensive,’ he wrote.

Fraser said the private finance schemes were ‘vastly complicated’ and ‘designed by lawyers and accountants whose first interest is to make them complex and so hugely lucrative for themselves’.

He added: ‘All the creativity, craft and artistry goes into financial wizardry … and the simple craft of making a decent building where the walls stand up, the ventilation works and the drainage drains is of secondary importance.’

Fraser likened the current system to the unrestrained financial trading that led to the global economic crash.

‘We have deregulated the building industry – disempowered the architects, clerks of work and public standards inspectors that brought professionalism to bear and, instead, allowed our banking masters to police and sign off their own work.’

He called for ministers to ‘replace private processes with public ones, where money is prudentially borrowed and the interests of the public are put first’.

Andf he added: ‘Make sure these interests include the simple things like drainage, sound construction and fresh air and put professionals in place to enforce them.’

Malcolm was principal of Malcolm Fraser Architects from 1993 to 2015, then part of Halliday Fraser Munro, before setting up practice with Robin Livingstone at the start of this year.

The Scottish government has been contacted for comment.  


Readers' comments (3)

  • Malcolm Fraser is absolutely right, and it's surely not just PFI in Scotland that's discreditable - yesterday I was on the receiving end of a Plymouth taxi-driver's diatribe about the problems - both constructionally and financially - facing new home buyers in the Sherford so-called New Town west of Plymouth.
    The developers of the much needed housing seem to have been busy watering down Prince Charles' advisers' design vision (strong arming the local planning authorities in the process) as well as failing to exercise meaningful quality control and playing the leasehold 'game' disgracefully.
    At least the latter is - I hope - impossible in Scotland.

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  • Should have said 'east of Plymouth'' but comments here are set in stone.

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  • Why is this scandal still going on and so poorly understood? We are coming up to the 20th anniversary of the succesful campaign to see off a PFI of Pimlico School - a campaign strongly supported by the AJ - where parents, staff and governors saw off what should have been the first PFI 'pathfinder' in schools, backed by Blunkett and led by Jack Straw, chair of governors, until he was defenestrated.

    The gross inappropriateness and clear perniciousness of PFI was obvious to us then - negotiating inches on the widths of corridors and the serving temperature of school dinners in a 35 year contract when what we needed was £10m to address the 30-year backlog of repairs.

    We thought we were fighting for all schools and public buildings, that the news would get out and the people would rise up, that the administrators and politicians would respond rationally, Blair's 'what works'... Huh! As if. A merry prelude to todays political bonfire.

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